Making a list

Creative writing exercise uncovers gratitude and love

Several years ago, while perusing Facebook, catching up on the lives of long-lost friends and distant relatives, I came across a post by one of my most ambitious and creative friends, Tory Tompkins. (You might recognize her from this year’s American Idol series.)

In a creative writing exercise, Tory had compiled a detailed list of 100 things she loves—things like bonfires, rooftop gardens, and Cheshire Cat-grin-shaped crescent moons.

When I finished reading her list, I was so inspired that I immediately made my own, scribbling down things like squirrels, bright lamps, and long kisses in the warm summer rain.

Some things immediately came to mind—sushi, coconut M&Ms, and Libby’s pumpkin pie—while others took more digging. I added things like the burning smell of a heater cranked up for the first time in winter, toothpaste squeezers, electronic dictionaries, and the crumpling sound virtual trashcans make when emptied.

In the end, I listed 101 items, which I posted publicly as a note on my Facebook account, tagging friends who I thought would enjoy creating similar lists for themselves.

One fun thing about this activity is the variety of ideas people have. No two people are exactly alike; thus, their lists reflect their originality. Sure, there’s overlap—Tory and I both included lilies and some rendition of “seeing my friends succeed” on our respective lists—but the rest of our items revealed what makes us, well, us.

“This list sounds just like you,” a friend commented when he saw my post. “I laughed in recognition of a few—like semicolons.”

Over the years, I’ve participated in an array of creative writing exercises, yet somehow this one has stood out. I vividly remember how it energized me, prompting me to become more aware of the world around me, while teaching me more about myself in the process.

At its original 101 items, the list was far from exhaustive, though it was a valid representation of my personality and values. I’ve continued adding to the list since then, making note of past and new favorites—the things I love.

Today I have the list pinned to my office bulletin board to read in moments when I’m down, uneasy, or overwhelmed. As I reflect on simple pleasures like lunch dates with friends and sleeping on soft, clean sheets, I smile with relish at the things in life for which I’m deeply grateful.

Rachel’s Challenge

Try making your own list of things you love. If 100 items seem daunting, start with fifty!

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